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Don't Frame a Red Head

By Clarence E. Mulford

FARO-BANK is an expensive game when luck turns a cold shoulder on any player, and "going broke" is as easy as ruffling a deck. When a man finds he has two dollars left out of more than two months' pay and that it has taken him less than thirty minutes to get down to that mark, he cannot be censored much if he rails at that Will-o'-the-wisp, the Goddess of Luck. Put him a good ten days' ride from home, acquaintances and money, and perhaps he will be justified in adding heat in plenty to his denunciation. He had played to win when he should have coppered, coppered when he should have played to win, he had backed both ends against the middle and played the high card as well—but only when his bets were small did the turn show him what he wanted to see. Perhaps the case-keeper had hoodooed him, for he never did have any luck at cards when a tow-headed man had a finger in the game.

Fuming impotently at his helplessness, a man limped across the main street in Colby, constrained and a little awkward in his new store clothes and new, squeaking boots that were clumsy with stiffness. The only things on him that could be regarded as old and tried friends were the battered sombrero and the heavy walnut-handled Colt's .45 which rubbed comfortably with each movement of his thigh. The weapon, to be sure, had a ready cash value—but he could not afford to part with it. The horse belonged to his ranch, and the saddle must not be sold; to part with it would be to lose his mark of caste and become a walking man, which all good punchers despised.

"Ten days from home, knowin' nobody, two measly dollars in my pocket, an' luck dead agin me," he growled with pugnacious pessimism. "Oh, I'm a wise old bird, I am! A h—l of a wise bird. Real smart an' cute an' shiny, a cache of wisdom, a real, bonyfied Smart Aleck with a head full of spavined brains. I copper th' deuce an' th' deuce wins; I play th' King to win for ten dollars when I ought to copper it. I lay two-bits and it comes right—ten dollars an' I see my guess go loco. Reckon I better slip these here twin bucks down in my kill-me-soon boots afore some blind papoose takes 'em away from me. Wiser'n Solomon, I am; I've got old Cæsar climbin' a cactus for pleasure an' joy. S-u-c-k-e-r is my middle name—an' I'm busted."

He almost stumbled over a little tray of a three-legged table on the corner of the street and his face went hard as he saw the layout. Three halves of English walnut shells lay on the faded and soiled green cloth and a blackened, shriveled pea was still rolling from the shaking he had given the table. He stopped and regarded it gravely, jingling his two dollars disconsolately. "Don't this town do nothin' else besides gamble?" he muttered, looking around.

"Howdy, stranger!" cheerfully cried a man who hastened up. "Want to see me fool you?"

The puncher's anger was aroused to a thin, licking flame; but it passed swiftly and a cold calculating look came into his eyes. He glanced around swiftly, trying to locate the cappers, but they were not to be seen, which worried him a little. He always liked to have possible danger where he could keep an eye on it. Perhaps they were eating or drinking—the thought stirred him again to anger: two dollars would not feed him ver...

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